Children are no longer passively pushing peas around their plates. Instead, kids today are bringing distinct food preferences to the table. They’re gaining a strong set of food values, views and habits from their Millennial parents, who are increasingly using food as a platform for bonding, education and creativity at home. By understanding how and what children are learning about food, schools can better cater to their students.
Research shows that more than 60%1 of parents use cooking to spend time with their family. Kids are helping out with tasks like washing and peeling fruits and vegetables; stirring dressings and batters; and loading the dishwasher2. This gives them the chance to get involved in the kitchen, and get excited about what they eat.
Families are also connecting through cooking shows. With 34%3 watching these programs regularly, they have become the number one television genre that parents and kids enjoy together.
As kids’ culinary enthusiasm builds at home, it should be fed at school too. Get students’ input on cafeteria menus, try having recipes contest at you school that can challenge students on budget analysis, food safety, nutritionals standards and advertisement. Also consider some menu changes where they are given the chance to customizable or build-your-own entrees, or allow them to assist with meal prep or clean-up.
Parents want to give their children food that’s nutrient-rich and functional. So, it’s no surprise that the fastest growing claims among kid-focused products are “for energy” and “for stress and sleep”4. There’s also been growth in food and drinks for children that claim to be fortified with vitamins and minerals, and high in fiber5. By integrating these products into meals or vending machines, schools can sustain kids’ energy inside and outside the classroom.
With about half of parents believing that plant-based proteins are better for their kids than animal-based, a lot are turning to vegetarian options6. This could partly explain why veggie values are growing among teens, whose consumption of plant-based products has increased since 20157. Heinz No-Salt Added Crushed Tomatoes, No-Salt Added Diced Tomatoes or No-Salt Added Spaghetti Sauce are healthy veggie offerings that can add zest and zing to all kinds of dishes – without compromising flavor.
As parents and kids add healthy products in their shopping carts, they’re reducing those that raise health concerns. The top ingredients they’re trying to avoid are sugar, artificial ingredients, and GMOs8. Even so, parents still include the occasional indulgence as part of a balanced lifestyle9. Schools can follow suit by offering treats every once in a while – after all, kids need a break from routine, and little something sweet to sink their teeth into.
The more kids associate food with family, fun and health, the greater their influence on the contents of their kitchens. These days, 56%10 of parents’ purchase decisions are impacted by their child liking a product. Kids have a particularly strong say over their snacks, with almost half now requesting or deciding on the snack foods they eat11.
Children won’t leave their tastes and opinions at home – they’ll bring them to school too. Paying attention to changing habits and growing trends will make the most of schools’ investment in food that fosters both health and happiness.
Kraft Heinz is launching the K-12 Food Fight recipe contest to encourage school culinary teams to develop tasty, healthy dishes that boost kids’ waning interest in cafeteria food. Each school can submit one recipe, which will be judged on the number of Kraft Heinz products used, ease of preparation, and presentation. More details to come soon!